For young children, the mastery of everyday tasks is an important step toward building self confidence. Tasks such as buttoning buttons, zipping zippers and snapping snaps are essential for young hands to accomplish and teach children to concentrate and extend their attention span. Students learn to care for themselves as well as others by understanding the importance of completing a task, cleaning up and returning the materials to the appropriate place, ready for the next person to use.
Children learn best when allowed to touch, feel, hold, smell, listen, see and taste; the sensorial materials are designed to refine these senses and illustrate their use as a child’s tools for exploring the world. Children experience the similarities and differences of size, weight, texture, color, sound and other properties as both concrete and abstract concepts.
A basic tenet of Montessori education is that understanding is often a matter of seeing and touching. Special materials help the child to see and feel numbers, and thus to understand them more completely. Basic principles of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are taught first with materials the child can feel and manipulate, then later in more abstract form — again, according to each child’s own pace and interest. Elementary students also learn basic concepts of algebra and geometry.
A child’s command of vocabulary is stimulated in all classroom activities. Children are encouraged to participate during lessons, to ask and answer questions, tell stories, explain activities — all to help them organize their ideas. Once the sounds of the letter symbols are known, the child can begin to use them, first to construct words with the letters of the moveable alphabet, and then to read. For elementary students, requisite daily reading is augmented by our extensive school library and occasional trips to the nearby George Mason Regional Library. Reading and writing skills are taught and interwoven throughout the program. Grammar, spelling, cursive and research skills are all part of the basic Elementary curriculum.
Cultural Studies, Primary Level
The world of our Primary students is expanded through art, geography, nature and science studies. Many materials are present in the classroom for daily use, with each area emphasized at different times by special lessons, projects and experiences such as field trips.
Social Sciences, Elementary Level
History, geography and social studies often focus on the children themselves. Through the study of their universe, planet, country, state, town, their species and their personal histories, Elementary students gain a clear and tangible understanding and perspective of their place in the course of human and natural events. MSNV students are fortunate to live in a region so rich in social and historical significance, an area full of examples to illustrate a variety of lessons.
Physical and Natural Science, Elementary Level
“Plant the seeds of all the sciences,” directed Dr. Montessori, and at MSNV, science is an exciting and popular subject. Studies in botany, zoology, physics, astronomy and chemistry are explored through individual projects aided by field trips and natural observation.
Arts and Crafts
Children begin early to express themselves with painting, paper cutting and design. Craft skills are introduced initially to enhance fine motor development. Students use a variety of artistic media to increase skills, communicate and enjoy the process of creating artistic works. Students study the contributions of art to world cultures and its significance to our society.
Maria Montessori recognized that the development of motor skills is an essential bridge to understanding basic language and mathematical concepts. At MSNV, mind and body coordination are integrated, and the spacious classrooms allow children to be physically active. Outside, carefully planned and constructed play areas provide room for vigorous physical play. Our physical education goal for the Elementary child is to be an active, happy participant, while developing fitness and skills in a program that fosters good human relationships. A variety of strategies and activities are used to accommodate the diversity of skill levels. Safety, fun and good sportsmanship are emphasized.
The music program at MSNV is based on the concepts of German composer Carl Orff. The framework of Orff Schulwerk is built upon things children love to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance, and keep a beat on whatever is near at hand. In the beginning, children learn by hearing, imitating, and making music together. Children at MSNV get their first musical experiences from their own speech, songs, and poems interpreted dramatically and embellished with percussion instruments and the beautiful Orff instruments. These are wooden and metal xylophones and glockenspiels. Creative and imitative movements are used to foster self-expression. Children are given opportunities to share these musical activities for other students and parents throughout the year.
Just as when learning a language, we speak first, and then later learn to read and write. At this age, experiencing music in all of its forms is much more important than learning how to read notes. At MSNV children 5 years and older learn to read rhythmic notation and in some cases musical notation.
The materials used include folk music, seasonal and traditional songs and rhymes, Mother Goose, and games and dances. The basic methods of “Orff-Schulwerk,” with its progressive structure, integration of musical elements, and self-paced, hands-on technique, are fully compatible with the Montessori philosophy.
Spanish language instruction is part of the educational program for all Primary and Elementary students. Children are taught through a process of progressive mastery of skills: listening and speaking first, followed by reading and writing. The use of finger-plays, rhythmic verses, songs, visuals and games at all levels makes language instruction more enjoyable, and thus more effective. Folk songs both expand students’ vocabularies and introduce Spanish cultural, geographic and historical elements as well. The Montessori technique of hands-on learning is applied through the physical dramatization of information in brief, simple activities and repetitions that encourage a sense of mastery and progress.
Computers are important tools in today’s world. In the classroom, computers are one of many resources available to children. More advanced readers doing independent research may use the internet with supervision to augment other information sources. Children may also work on keyboarding skills or publish stories using the computer.